July 26, 2016

Nostalgia and Remembering the Why Behind Change

Facebook can stir some intense nostalgia with its memories feature. I logged on the other day to see a picture of our church’s Vacation Bible School from three years ago, the last one we held.
The kids were so sweet and little, and I was awash for a moment with nostalgia. I thought, briefly: I wish we still did a vacation bible school.

And then I remembered all the reasons why we moved to a different Christian formation offering. I shared our choice in a couple of blogs last year but thought it might be useful to circle back a year later, kind of like “Child Stars: Where Are They Now” or an update on “Shark Tank.” (Read them here and here.)

After years of declining attendance and waning support by volunteers, we reevaluated how we were offering Christian formation in the summer. Our awesome Christian formation director (who is very part-time so this can be done at any church of any size!) introduced us to Messy Church. The concept, which is all the rage in England right now, is an all-ages gathering with a shared meal, crafts, and simple worship.

Last summer, we offered Messy Church three times, once a month during the school summer break. We wondered how we would fare this year.

The verdict: Even better! The first session in June was such a hit that we had to set up more tables and chairs for the fifty-plus participants. In July, vacations cut into attendance a bit, but we still had nearly forty. We’ve had guests each time, with young people inviting their friends – and older folks inviting theirs too. The age range for participants is toddler to nonagenarians. For me, the part that most fills my soul is the craft time, particularly the coloring stations. I know, it sounds weird. But both sessions happened to fall at stressful times in my life. At the coloring stations, I could mindlessly engage in coloring while talking with people as they moved from one table to the next. I shared time with several different folks, some of whom I had hardly had a conversation in our four years of serving the church. Messy Church has given me (and others) an opportunity to make new connections and form relationships. I learned about the summer sports from a few of our elementary school students and a health problem of a fellow mom. As people traveled at their own pace through the different stations, I talked about vacation plans with some folks and family reunions with others. After crafts, we moved into another space for a short and simple worship service, led by volunteers of all ages.

Nostalgia for the ways things were, for the good old days, can suck us in and make us forget about the good things happening right now, about the opportunities for more good things to occur in the future. I’m glad Facebook memories reminded me of some good times at our church’s VBS, but I’m also thankful for how our new way of being Messy Church is forming and shaping us.

How has your church changed over the years? Has a beloved program ended? What new thing is taking (or can take) its place? How can you be a cheerleader for it? 

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